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What is a “Cult?”. Is the Messianic Movement at Large, or Beth Yeshua specifically a “Cult?”. Part 1. Introduction. We have Been Called a “Cult”. A pastor in this local area has said this to 3 different families that I know of.

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What is a “Cult?”

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what is a cult

What is a “Cult?”

Is the Messianic Movement at Large, or Beth Yeshua specifically a “Cult?”

part 1
Part 1
  • Introduction
we have been called a cult
We have Been Called a “Cult”
  • A pastor in this local area has said this to 3 different families that I know of.
  • We get this accusation from others who are ignorant of what we believe.
  • It is easier to call names to people of different beliefs than to understand them and seek the truth.
definition of word cult
Definition of Word “cult”
  • From Latin – “cultus” - meaning worship
    • Cult is literally the "care" owed to the god and the shrine.
definition of word cult1
Definition of Word “cult”

Adherents of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices

  • a system of religious beliefs and rituals; "devoted to the cultus of the Blessed Virgin" wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn
  • In religion and sociology, a cult is a group of people (often a new religious movement) devoted to beliefs and goals which may be contradictory to those held by the majority of society. Its marginal status may come about either due to its novel belief system or due to idiosyncratic practices that cause the surrounding culture to regard it as far outside the mainstream. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult
definition of word cult2
Definition of Word “cult”
  • In traditional usage, the cult of a religion, quite apart from its sacred writings ("scriptures"), its theology or myths, or the personal faith of its believers, is the totality of external religious practice and observance, the neglect of which is the definition of impiety. Cult is literally the "care" owed to the god and the shrine. ...en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_(religion)
the church is a cult
The “Church” is a “cult”
  • If we wish to take the literal description, the Church is a “cult,” too!
  • It has a religious system that is contrary to that of the majority of society!
  • It has practices of devotion toward God.
we may find characteristics of cults within most of our churches today
We may find characteristics of “cults” within most of our churches today.
  • Example: Authoritarianism – I know several non-Messianic pastors of mainline denominations who are very authoritarian. Does this mean that they are a “cult?” NO!
  • Catholics hold to the authority of the Pope and the Church. Does this mean that they are a “cult?”
  • NO!
different behavior
“Different” Behavior
  • Many Christian groups practice things that by society’s standards (or even other mainstream Christian standards) that may be considered “different” or “deviant.”
  • Pentecostalism: “Slain in the Spirit,” “speaking in tongues,” etc.
  • Does this mean that Pentacostals are a “cult?”
  • NO!
different beliefs
“Different” Beliefs
  • There are over 1,000 different Christian sects and denominations. Each claims to have a more exact understanding of Biblical truth. Baptists = baptism; Methodists = method; Pentacostals = pentecost/Spirit; etc.
  • Does this mean that each of them are “cults” because they hold that they have a more exact understanding of Biblical truth than the others?
  • NO!
  • Many mainstream denominations believe they are “exclusive” and that the others may or may not be saved.
  • At one time, Catholics believed that no one outside of their faith was saved.
  • Does this mean that they are a “cult?”
  • NO!
mainstream churches
Mainstream Churches
  • May very well have one or more of the characteristics of a “cult.”
  • Does this make them a “cult?”
  • NO!
important to define cult
Important to Define “Cult”
  • It is SO easy to throw out this pejorative toward other groups of people that don’t believe what you do.
  • Need to understand what this word means before we use it on another group!
definition of a cult
Definition of a “cult”
  • From Christian sources:
  • Dr Walter Martin: "any religious group which differs significantly in some one or more respects as to belief or practice from those religious groups which are regarded as the normative expressions of religion in our total culture.  I may add to this that a cult might also be defined as a group of people gathered about a specific person or person's mis-interpretation of the Bible"
    • Martin, Walter.  The Kingdom of the Cults.  Minneapolis, Bethany House Publishers, 1985.
definition of a cult1
Definition of a “cult”
  • A religious group that follows a particular theological system. In the context of Christianity, and in particular, CARM, it is a group that uses the Bible but distorts the doctrines that affect salvation sufficiently to cause salvation to be unattainable. A few examples of cults are Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Christadelphians, Unity, Religious Science, The Way International, and the Moonies. (See also Cults)www.carm.org/dictionary/dic_c-d.htm
different dimensions of a cult
Different Dimensions of a “cult”
  • Norman L. Geisler and Ron Rhodes in When Cultists Ask says, "There are three different dimensions of a cult - doctrinal, sociological, and moral... Keep in mind, though, that not every cult manifests every single trait we discuss“
      • Geisler, Norman L. and Rhodes, Ron.  When Cultists Ask.  Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1997.
doctrinal characteristics of a cult
Doctrinal Characteristics of a Cult
  • There are four characteristics in the doctrinal dimension of a cult.  They are:
  • 1) New Revelation, 2) Denial of the Sole Authority of the Bible, 3) A Distorted View of God and Jesus, and 4) Denial of Salvation by Grace.
1 new revelation
1) New Revelation
  • Cult's teachings often change and new revelations are needed to justify the changes.
messianic movement beth yeshua
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • Calls for the Return to revelation of First Century believers as found in BOTH the Older and Newer Testaments.
  • Early “church” – Torah observant – Acts 21:17-24
  • Call to the faith of the First Century believer BEFORE the Greek Early Church Fathers brought their platonic Greek thinking into it!
clear delineation
Clear Delineation
  • We try to clearly delineate between Scripture and non-Scripture:
    • Between Canonical writings and those which are not – Talmud, Mishnah, Midrash, Early Church Father’s writings, etc.
part 2
Part 2
  • Review previous Sabbath teaching.
2 denial of the sole authority of the bible
2) Denial of the Sole Authority of the Bible
  • In order of the cults to push their idea of new revelation, they need to reject the sole authority of the Bible and put it on the same or in fact lower level as the new revelation.
messianic movement beth yeshua1
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • The Scripture IS our sole Authority (Period).
    • Even Protestants who claim “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Only) and claim to follow Biblical practices only still follow after non-Scriptural practices, such as the “Sunday Sabbath” – a Church tradition. We appeal back to Scripture and say there is NO Scriptural support for this later practice.
messianic movement beth yeshua2
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • We will quote from other sources: Mishnah, Talmud, Early Church Writings, etc., to show dynamics and history; but these are clearly delineated as “non-Scripture” and hold no authority!
  • Bruce and any other Messianic leader does not hold a position of “ex cathedra” where we sit in the throne of Peter – as does the Pope and able to bring forth newer revelation and practice.
3 a distorted view of god and jesus
3) A Distorted View of God and Jesus
  • Many cults do see Jesus as who he is - the Son of God who is fully God at the same time.  They believe Jesus to a lower degree like a god but not the God.  Cults reject the Trinity and they reject the existence of the Holy Spirit.  Cults also reject the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
messianic movement beth yeshua3
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • Our Statement of Faith says:
  • 2. Hear, O Israel: YHVH [the LoRD] is our Elohim. He is One YHVH. He alone is YHVH. Deuteronomy 6:4.
  • 3. The nature of YHVH is a compound unity expressed in the aspects of Abba [the Father], Yeshua [Salvation, the Son, Messiah] and Ruach HaKodesh [the Holy Spirit/Breath] in this age. Matthew 28:19.
  • 4. YHVH and His Word are eternal, that is: He, His Word and His Will has always, and will always, be the same. Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, Matthew 5:18; 24:35.
  • 6. Yeshua of Natzeret is the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is YHVH who appeared among mankind in the flesh, and now is glorified with all power in Heaven and in Earth, at the right hand of Abba. John 1:12-14.
4 denial of salvation by grace
4) Denial of Salvation by Grace
  • Cults reject the idea of salvation by grace.  They mostly hold to salvation by works.
messianic movement beth yeshua4
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • 7. Messiah Yeshua is the ultimate and final Passover Lamb required for the removal of sins. He died by execution stake (stagion) on a tree (xulon) and rose from the dead three days afterward. Everyone who repents of their sins, and trusts that Yeshua is the Messiah, who died as our Passover Lamb and rose again, they are forgiven their sins and come into a renewed covenant with YHVH through Him, and therefore become inheritors of all the promises YHVH made with Abraham and Israel. (Isaiah 53, Romans 10:9-11, 1 Corinthians 5:7).
saved by faith only
Saved by Faith ONLY
  • I have emphasized this over and over in many messages! We are NOT saved by keeping Torah, or any other set of “rules” or “regulations.” We are saved by faith and faith alone (Ephesians 2:8)!
  • HOWEVER, it is expected that a saved person, who truly loves the Lord will obey Him! “If you love me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15; 2 John 1:6; James 2:14-26)
sociological characteristics of a cult
  • There are seven characteristics in the sociological dimension of a cult.  They are:
  • 1) Authoritarianism, 2) Exclusivism, 3) Dogmatism, 4) Close-mindedness, 5) Susceptibility, 6) Isolationism, and 7) Antagonism. 
1 authoritarianism
1) Authoritarianism
  • This is the acceptance of a authority figure who often uses mind-control techniques on their followers for control.  The word of these authority figures (founder or prophet) are considered ultimate.
  • For abusive cults, the key word is CONTROL  CONTROL CONTROL by Submitting to the Leadership - leaders tend to be the absolute end, looked to as prophets of God, as specially anointed apostles. Or they can be astrong, controlling, manipulative personality who demands submission even if he changes his views or conflicts occur in doctrine or behavior. sometimes they can be looked on as God Himself. Often to obey a leader and their teaching is equal to obeying God.
messianic movement beth yeshua5
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • We do not have an authoritarian leadership. No “head” of Messianic Movement. Have many covering organizations composed of a group of leaders (MJAA, UMJC, MBI, IAMCS, UTOM, ATOM, etc).
  • Voluntary submission of congregations to covering organizations.
    • We deliberately set up leadership so that no one person(s) is set up as the “authority” figure.
mbi credentials
MBI Credentials
  • 3. Association. The MBI Credentialed Minister agrees that association with MBI is totally voluntary. Only those Ministers with Current Credentials are eligible for leadership within Messianic Bureau International. The MBI Credentialed  Minister hereby agrees to all future amendments to the qualifications, regulations, and statement of faith, as long as he/she is a credential holder with MBI.
2 exclusivism
2) Exclusivism
  • Cults usually believe that they alone have the truth as opposed to other Christian denominations.  Some cults practice communal living (some religious groups that practice communal living are not cults) to make it easier to maintain control over cult members.
messianic movement beth yeshua6
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • We believe that there are people saved in every denomination of Christendom. People are saved by faith alone, not by works or what denomination they belong to.
3 dogmatism
3) Dogmatism
  • Cults believe that they alone have the truth and they are the only ones to interpret the Bible correctly.
messianic movement beth yeshua7
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • We don’t have a corner on “truth.”
  • We DO appeal to the Body of Believers to go back to the Hebraic understanding of the Scriptures – not to what came in after the death of the Apostles!
    • The Bible is a Hebrew book and can be understood best by going back to the pre-Early Church Fathers (Greek leaders) understanding. Even Marvin Wilson notes this!
4 close mindedness
4) Close-mindedness
  • Cult members are so devoted to their cult that they are unwilling to even consider any other point of view even if they know they are wrong. 
messianic movement beth yeshua8
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • We know well what the Church and Judaism teaches – we try to hold fast to what is true and Scriptural and reject what is not.
  • We consider what other groups say and do. Some Messianic groups are more “Pentecostal,” some more “Orthodox Jewish.” Whole spectrum of expression of worship.
5 susceptibility
5) Susceptibility
  • Many people that join cults are gullible and some are psychologically vulnerable.  This goes hand in hand with close-mindedness in that they will ignore anything that contradicts their claims while practicing blind faith that is absent of sound reasoning.  
messianic movement beth yeshua9
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • We want people to have a reasoned faith. This is the purpose of our Torah studies, etc.
    • Bring in materials from many sources: Messianic: First Fruits of Zion, etc., Christian: Jewish Roots of Christianity, Catholic Church, etc.
6 isolationism
6) Isolationism
  • Extreme cults create fortified boundaries and are hard on those who are thinking or are attempting to desert.  Isolationism creates fear among cult members to obey their leaders giving them even more control.
messianic movement beth yeshua10
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • We do not tell people to be isolated from our Christian brothers and sisters.
  • We do not forbid them from fellowshipping with other believers.
  • We do not persuade people that they must stay with us or lose their salvation. I have encouraged people that are not being ministered to at Beth Yeshua to go to other congregations that they can be ministered to!
7 antagonism
7) Antagonism
  • Isolationism leads to antagonism toward the outside world.  Other Christian groups are considered evil and bad.
messianic movement beth yeshua11
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • Messianic Movement overall has no antagonism toward fellow-believers! Many times, it is the opposite – they have antagonism toward us!
  • My antagonism is not toward the people in other Christian groups – I was there!
    • My antagonism is toward the pagan-originated, non-Biblical practices found in the Church today.
  • Evidently God is too: Revelation 18:4
moral characteristics of a cult
  • There are four characteristics of the moral dimension of a cult.  They are:
  • 1) Legalism, 2) Sexual Perversion, 3) Physical Abuse, and 4) Intolerance toward Others.
1 legalism
1) Legalism
  • Since cults reject salvation by grace, they often practice legalism.  This is a setting down of rigid rules that are not Biblical.  This is also for the leaders to control their members. 
messianic movement beth yeshua12
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • What is “legalism?”
  • Many Christian groups are “legalistic” – Can’t play cards, can’t drink alcoholic beverages, can’t dance, can’t watch movies, etc.
  • Easier to define what is NOT “legalism” –
  • Example: Yeshua (Jesus)
yeshua not legalistic
Yeshua NOT “legalistic”
  • Yeshua did not sin – Hebrews 4:15
  • Sin is the transgression of the Law – 1 John 3:4
  • Yeshua did not transgress the Law.
  • Conclusion: Obeying the Torah therefore is NOT “Legalism” or else Yeshua was the “perfect Legalist” since He kept it perfectly!
2 sexual perversion
2) Sexual Perversion
  • In cults there are huge cases of sexual perversion.  Some cults allow polygamy (more than one wife).  Some cults sexually lure people into their cult.  The leaders of some cults have been reported to having sex with a great deal of women in their cult including young girls.
catholic church
Catholic Church
  • Has many instances of child sexual abuse, many times these priests were simply transferred out to other parishes!
  • Are they a cult because of this?
  • NO!
messianic movement beth yeshua13
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • The Torah, which we want to follow as “Messianics,” FORBIDS such behavior!
  • It is when we move AWAY from the commandments of God (the Law) that we move towards those perversions!
  • There is NO place found for this in either the Messianic Movement OR Beth Yeshua!
mbi credentials1
MBI Credentials
  • 4. Immorality. The Messianic Minister is responsible to report any immorality or substantial change in their walk or belief as varying from the standard of MBI, and submit to the Executive Office for the work of redemption and restoration. If any Messianic Minister is believed to have performed an act of adultery, homosexuality, or any immorality as stated in Torah, they shall be put immediately on DisciplinarySuspension and may not act upon their official duties, nor minister from the Bima, until restored to active status. Any Messianic Minister who will not be restored according to the process of MBI shall turn in their credentials; their commission/ordination shall be immediately rescinded and they will be Dismissed.
mbi credentials2
MBI Credentials
  • 20. Obedience. Knowledgeable disobedience of these regulations or any plain commandment of Scripture may result in change of status or loss of credential.
3 physical abuse
3) Physical Abuse
  • Some cults are guilty of engaging in physical abuse.  Many ex-cult members accuse their former leaders of beating, depriving of sleep and food as a way of control.  Many times these attacks are directed at children.  There is also psychological abuse (fear, isolation, intimidation).
messianic movement beth yeshua14
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • Doesn’t happen in the Messianic Movement at large. Messianic leaders who are under one of the covering organizations would be suspended from ministry should they do this.
  • There is an accountability to the rest of the Body to insure this abuse does not happen. That’s why we’re under MBI.
4 intolerance toward others
4) Intolerance toward Others
  • Many cults have a low tolerance toward people of other groups.  This is seen in antagonism toward these groups.
messianic movement beth yeshua15
Messianic Movement & Beth Yeshua
  • Though there is some intolerance in some Messianic circles to people in other groups or churches, we try not to let that happen in the Movement at large or in Beth Yeshua in particular.
  • However, it is one thing to be tolerant to other people and another to be tolerant to sin.
not every cult has all the characteristics
Not Every Cult has All the Characteristics
  • It is good to note again that not every cult has all of these characteristics.  But every cults has at least one or more of the characteristics listed here!
check out what we are
Check out what we are
  • I encourage people to study out what we are before labeling us.
  • If we are a “cult,” I would not expect you to continue attending.
  • Next time someone, including a pastor, tells you that Beth Yeshua or the Messianic Movement is a “cult” – challenge them to explain why they say that!
use the materials i provided
Use the Materials I provided…
  • From mainstream, Christian anti-cult ministries – such as the late Dr. Walter Martin’s, or Norman L. Geisler and Ron Rhodes’ ministries.
  • These materials come from sources that define what a cult is!
get their books
Get their Books
  • Geisler, Norman L. and Rhodes, Ron.  When Cultists Ask.  Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1997.
  • Martin, Walter.  The Kingdom of the Cults.  Minneapolis, Bethany House Publishers, 1985.